During my son John's second tour in Ramadi, he was assigned to Weapons Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion 5th Marines. John, as were all the grunts, was offered $24,000 tax free to re-enlist, to 're-up'. No one in Weapons Platoon, indeed, no one in Fox Company, found the offer very appealing. As John said to me, "It works out to about $5,000 a year and you have to live like this". It is worth noting that those who did re-up were in artilery or some other function, or in military slang, POG's (persons other than grunts).
Living like 'this", refers to living in scorching heat, separated from your loved ones and being shot at and targeted daily with IED's and incoming mortar attacks. Once, while talking with John via satellite phone, I heard him exclaiming. "oh my god, oh my god'. When he came back on the phone he told me that one of his buddies had stopped on his way to the medic, and showed him the bullet wound he had received in the back. His buddy was given a few days to heal and a new flak jacket and sent back into action almost immediately. As in all wars, some experiences become the stuff of legend as was the fate of Miller from Echo Company. Miller took five rounds in the back and four rounds in the chest and were it not for a tenth round that hit his arm and sent him home, he too would have been given a new jacket and sent back into combat. That is the job in Iraq. That is part of the job description.
And just so you know, it isn't all gladiator on gladiator in war. The line between innnocent and combatant is not always clear. You need to know that when you mow down the parents of three year old girl and pick her up, crying, in your arms that you will have to live with that for the rest of your life. The rest of your life.
Now, because all the ribbon warriors who claim to support the war and claim to support the troops do not want to actually fight in the war, will not enlist in the war, my son may be called back to Iraq. Well, I want to say this to you macho, brave, patriots who stop at the light in Bandon next to our protest every Friday in your gas guzzling, he-man, pickups. You know who you are, you brave warrior types that wait until the light turns green then give us the finger while you accelerate away in a cloud of exhaust. Trade in your deer rifle for a SAWS and sell your gas sucking 4×4 pickup so you can buy your own body armor and you go over and fight for my son like he fought for you!
No excuses! The men in my son's platoon had families too and they still went to Iraq and some of them didn't go home. Age is no excuse, the army will take you at 42 and, if you haven't already, invest your son or daughter in the global war on terror. Be sure you have some stock in Haliburton though, or you may not see the return on your investment that you hoped for.